September 4th, 2009
02:15 PM ET

Courage under fire

Program Note: Watch AC360° tonight for a profile of Rusty Fleming and his work reporting on the drug trafficking along the border of U.S. and Mexico. Tonight AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/25/art.juarez.bags.hat.jpg caption="Inside a morgue in Juarez, Mexico. The belongings of victims killed in the violence."]

Rusty Fleming
Documentary Filmmaker and Author


A couple of weeks ago I was in New York, meeting with network television producers about a series they wanted to run about a story my production team and I have been reporting for more than five years: the narco-insurgency currently wreaking havoc on the U.S. and Mexico.

Just as we all sat down around the conference table, my cell phone rang. Given the importance of the meeting, I normally would have let the call go to voice mail, but when I looked at the number I knew I had to pick it up. This person would not be calling unless it was an absolute emergency. I opened the phone and didn’t even get the “Hello” out of my mouth before a shaken and somewhat scared voice said, “Rusty when can you be here?”

The caller was my most trusted source in Mexico. Slightly stunned by the abrupt nature of the call, I responded inquisitively, “pretty soon, I should wrap up here in New York in a couple of days, why?”

“We have to talk right away, we have a huge problem down here and you’re in the middle of it” he exclaimed.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Mexico • Rusty Fleming
June 17th, 2009
08:27 PM ET

“Come on….It’s just pot”

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/02/27/juarez.mexico.violence/art.police.jpg caption="In Juarez, Mexico, 1,600 people were killed in 2008, three times more than the most murderous city in the U.S."]

Rusty Fleming
Documentary Filmmaker and Author

It was a little after midnight when I crossed over the bridge from Laredo, Texas into the sister city of Nuevo Laredo Mexico. After having my car searched I was cleared through the Mexican Customs check point where the military was staged and drove towards my destination.

I had a source of mine, a local reporter, call me four hours earlier to tell me to meet him at a specific restaurant at 1am because he had some photographs and information for me. I was investigating a specific series of brutal murders that had taken place in the Laredo corridor. This meeting with a contact wasn’t all that unusual—most of the investigative journalists in Mexico work under intense circumstances as they often fall upon information relating to the drug cartels that they either can not, or will not, report on because it would be a death sentence for them.Therefore, they give the information to someone like me who will get it aired or published in a way that does not connect them.

I arrived early to the restaurant and since the weather was pleasant, I decided to take a seat on the patio and have a glass of tea. I sat for a few minutes when my source arrived and sat down, ordered a drink and handed me a large white envelope. He told me this was everything I had been asking his editor about the day before and that I should be careful how I use it. I thanked him, (by paying him), and we talked for about 20 minutes after which he asked if I could give him a ride home.


June 15th, 2009
08:54 PM ET

Without a trace

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/25/art.maryanne.border.jpg caption="Near the U.S.-Mexican border."]

Rusty Fleming
Documentary Filmmaker and Author


As she sits on her couch looking back at me, Consuelo wipes the tears from behind her glasses and tries to tell me about the night her 18-year-old daughter was taken - suddenly and violently – and never heard from again.

Her trembling hands and shaking legs speak volumes of the pain she suffers day-in and day-out, wondering about the fate of youngest daughter. “Is she alive? Is she dead? Is she cold and hungry? Have they hurt her? If they did kill her where is her body?” These thoughts and many more, race through the mind of this single mother a hundred times a day.

Consuelo – not her real name; she’s too afraid to use her real name – is a 49-year-old mother of four. “Today is my baby’s 20th birthday. It’s been over two years and we’ve heard nothing.”

Consuelo can hardly speak her daughter’s name before her face flinches with pain and her eyes fill up again with tears. With a breath of exasperation and more than a hint of resentment she says, “No one has helped us, no one.”


Filed under: 360° Radar • Marijuana • Mexico • Rusty Fleming
March 27th, 2009
10:10 PM ET

Welcome to Juarez—Now get back on your side

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/03/24/us.mexico.relations/art.mexico.juarez.afp.gi.jpg caption="A federal police officer guards a checkpoint earlier this month in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico."]
Rusty Fleming
Documentary Filmmaker and Author


I’ve been documenting the Mexican drug cartels and their operations in Mexico and the U.S. on film and in print for the past four years. I’ve had a front row seat to one of the most violent and brutal uprisings in the history of our two countries and still I am amazed that so few people, especially within our government comprehend this problem and haven’t a clue as to the true effects it is having on our own society, economy and geopolitical landscape.

I’ve had the opportunity to get at close range to some of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world. Whether that has been a blessing or a curse remains to be seen, but nonetheless, it has given me insight to a situation that is not only dangerous, but frightening— to see first hand what they are successfully doing with the money, power and influence they are amassing by selling their wares to our own people and around the world.

The men that run these organizations are not a bunch of coked out cowboys, slinging their pistols in the air as they party day and night. No, these are intelligent, educated men with the resources to surround themselves with some of the sharpest minds on the planet. They run global, multi-billion dollar businesses that operate around the clock, around the world. They know the power of knowledge. They have the latest in technologies and weaponry available, they use satellites for communications and surveillance. They employ their own private armies, fully trained and armed to teeth, in order to protect their operations.


Filed under: Mexico • Rusty Fleming